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Consumers fail to warm to cost-saving climate-friendly smart meters

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An ESB smart meter

An ESB smart meter

An ESB smart meter

Smart meters do not necessarily make for smart consumers, according to a study that found Irish householders avoid electricity deals that would save them money.

The research showed that packages offering 'time-of-use' tariffs to take advantage of fluctuating power prices at different times of the day were actually a turn-off.

That was despite potential savings of up to 13pc in the scenarios created for the test.

The findings make clear the scale of the task ahead in getting the public ready to use the smart meters that the ESB has started installing.

The ESB began replacing standard meters last autumn and so far has installed smart meters in 33,000 homes.

All 2.3 million existing meters are to be upgraded to smart meters by 2024.

While cost is meant to be the main attraction, the meters are required under EU policy to also help households opt for cleaner renewable power such as wind and solar when it is most plentiful and provide the flexibility that the national grid needs to receive and distribute power from a variety of sources.

But these good intentions went above the heads of many of the 145 people who took part in a trial overseen by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) and the Commission for the Regulation of Utilities (CRU).

Based on their lifestyles and schedules, the most complex tariff was the cheapest option for 75pc of the group but less than half of them chose it.

Given another chance and a personalised online calculator to help them, a third still failed to make the best choice.

Colour-coding was provided to help the group make sense of the options but they did not remember the information the colours represented.

Commissioner Aoife MacEvilly of the CRU said: "Clearly, we have work to do to communicate the benefit of time-of-use tariffs to positively influence consumer behaviour."

Irish Independent